It’s Christmas time, or the holidays are upon us, again. And predictably, Christians and traditionalists are duking it out with many in the broader culture regarding whether or not the correct greeting is “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.
Technically, in common usage a holiday is any day free of regular work or school. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving are all holidays. So to use “Happy Holidays” only for Christmas and New Years could be said to apply an undeserved exclusivity to the greeting.
“Merry Christmas” does more accurately convey any season-specific good wishes with this particular season. Due to cultural norms, to say “Merry Christmas” is not necessarily to admit an obeisance to and acceptance of the Christ, the historic and real reason for the season.
But is it an issue big enough to build a stink over?
I would argue it is not.
In the same way as Christians we can see our culture building itself into the biggest frenzy every Christmas as a tacit recognition of the primacy the event of Christmas is to our world, we can see the use of the term “Holiday” as a tacit recognition of nature of the day as a Holy Day.
This is, admittedly, an “I’ll take what I can get” perspective. However, I would balance that with a question: Can we expect the masses of non-Christians to act in a Christian way or recognize Christian position beyond what is habitual and cultural in their life?
Culture changes. It just happens. That is an amoral principle of the world and human existence. It is not inherently evil that change occurs. Sometimes change is good, and sometimes it is bad.
We live in a post-Christian culture in America and in much of the rest of western civilization. We are surrounded by remnants of Christian influence but for the broader culture, these trappings are tradition, and either do not have religious significance or are thought less of because of their religious roots.
The fact that Christmas is still celebrated with such gusto, even if much of it is driven by cynical and selfish pursuits, should be heartwarming to all Christians.
There are bigger and more important things than that Walmart or Target allow the Salvation Army bell ringers outside their doors or greet you with “Merry Christmas”.
A person can enter heaven without once having uttered the word “Christmas” or having rung the bell or put spare and paltry change into the red pots.
A person cannot enter heaven without having accepted the Christ’s sacrifice as a human and God to pay the just penalty for their sins.
Christmas is an option. A good option. But it is not essential to salvation, nor even to evangelism.
I fear that by arguing over non-essentials, we Christians marginalize ourselves in the eyes of the surrounding culture. If the culture wearies of our crying over small things, when we cry over something big, they’ll disregard it. Yes, the boy who cried “wolf!” is a parable applicable to evangelism and salvation.
One final argument is taken from Jesus’ own words that Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The person and their intent and action is more important than the name we use for a given holiday.
Respond to “Happy Holidays” with “And I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too”, showing by your genuine love and care that you are a person with their best interest at heart. Only you will know deep inside your heart that their best interest through the river of the blood of the baby born so long ago whose birth we celebrate globally today in the biggest, most amazingly awesome birthday party, who walked this earth teaching and who gave up His own life willingly, dying so the rest of us can live in His righteousness.
Don’t send someone else to hell because you are quibbling over how they recognize a holiday.